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Handle With Care: 15 harmful practices

Over the last decade, my team and I have seen real progress in the evolution of best practices for acquisition and integration. Across most areas, corporate organisations – and the advisers who support them – appear at last to be converging on what really makes M&A work: The right combination of connected, well-governed process; people with real experience applied to the task; and behaviours that support accountability, focus, and objectivity. That’s encouraging, but application remains patchy: While between 80% and 95% of senior executives believe the use of a number of specific M&A and integration best practices has a major impact on long-term deal success, fewer than 45% consistently follow them.

In less experienced acquirers, we see a different challenge: Those who follow what they believe to be generic M&A and integration best practices – but do so in a way that reduces the likelihood of deal success. We find ourselves regularly engaging in conversations that start with, “But everyone knows we should…”, to which we reply, “Yes, perhaps in principle, but…” As with so much else in this field, context and experience count more than standard process and conventional wisdom.

My team and I came together to identify, unravel, and explore a number of these so-called best practices: when they work, when they don’t, and how they can be applied more thoughtfully to support, rather than damage, an acquisition or integration. We’ve seen each and every one of these practices backfire when misapplied, and continue working with our clients to find better ways to handle them. Sometimes the best option is to...

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